Two members of Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration attended a community council meeting this week over Zoom to talk about COVID-19 testing and other issues — and ended up sharing more than they intended.
The two inadvertently left their microphone on during the meeting while speaking to each other, and at one point, Bronson’s director of legislative affairs said he thought someone they had been talking with “needed a little slapping around.” After the incident, Rogers Park Community Council members and others in attendance said they were shocked and characterized the comments as “unsavory.”
Portia Erickson, the mayor’s director of community engagement, and Terrence Shanigan, director of legislative affairs, attended the Rogers Park Community Council meeting on Monday. At first, they spoke about COVID-19 testing in the city, answering questions about community concerns such as long wait times at testing sites operated by the private entity Capstone Clinic.
About an hour and 16 minutes in to the meeting, as Carolyn Ramsey, president of the Airport Heights Community Council, began to speak, Erickson and Shanigan’s voices cut through.
[Listen to the exchange below:]
“Hey Terrence, thanks for jumping in,” Erickson said.
“I figured they needed a little slapping around,” Shanigan replied, and Erickson laughed.
He later asked Erickson if she’d received a text he’d sent her about lyrics in a song.
" ‘Hush, hush, hush, let’s lie... I know it’s wrong, but let’s lie together, in a way,’ " Shanigan said, apparently referring to the song lyrics.
Rogers Park Community Council President Pete Mjos tried to intervene, asking the two to mute their window, but their conversation continued.
Erickson could also be heard telling Shanigan that members of the mayor’s communication team, Corey Allen Young and Hans Rodvik, need to prepare a news release about “testing and numbers” and that she had asked her husband to look up the numbers on the CovidSecure app. The audio for the mayor’s office was then cut off.
Young, spokesman for the mayor’s office, did not answer questions about who Shanigan was referring to in his comment about “slapping around,” why Shanigan made the comment, what song Shanigan had been speaking about, why he texted Erickson the song lyrics or why he had made the reference.
“Mayor Bronson does not condone the statement Mr. Shanigan said ‘I figured they needed a little slapping around,’ ” Young said by email.
Mjos, in an interview, said many community council members were shocked by what they heard.
“As this thing unfolded, and if you were to look at the faces of the membership on the Zoom screen, there was possibly shock and I think there was bewilderment. People were flabbergasted. What the hell is going on?” Mjos said.
“It was only after we recovered from the shock of what the dickens was going on, that we were able to then actually mute their conversation — but it was after some time,” he said.
Community council members had asked “reasonable” questions surrounding the administration’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
The representatives from the mayor’s office “came, it seemed, prepared to ‘slap us around’ — whatever that means,” Mjos said.
But Ramsey said it’s difficult to tell exactly who Shanigan was referring to when he said he “figured they needed a little slapping around.” To her, it sounded like he could have been referencing the community council itself, or an Anchorage School Board member, Carl Jacobs, who had attended.
Although the audio is unclear, Shanigan at one point could be heard referring to the Anchorage School Board member speaking at the meeting.
“Either way, you want to smack around an elected official, or you want to smack around civilian members of a community council,” Ramsey said. “Either way, that’s bad.”
The incident has left some members of the community council with a sense of distrust, they said.
“It was as though they had almost intentionally, perhaps even from the beginning, tried to play us,” Mjos said.
Community council members had not heard from the mayor’s office about the incident as of Wednesday afternoon, he said.